Overcoming The Devil's Best
March 11, 2018 | Randy Smith
Overcoming The Devil’s Best
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Pastor Randy Smith
I put a lot of thought into this sermon in regards to the proper way to package it. The main truth is obvious. Satan will attack Jesus with His very best temptations and Jesus will emerge victorious demonstrating not only His superior power over the devil, but primarily His sinlessness as the true Son of God which would qualify Him to be our substitute on the cross to pay the full penalty for our sins.
One road we could travel is to study the techniques of Jesus and copy Him in our relentless bouts of spiritual warfare with the devil. Satan, just as active today, is a “roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). His sights are on Christians and His mission is to do to us what he did to Christ – draw us into sin primarily by doubting God. His methods have not changed nor has our God-given strategy to overcome him. We’ll hit on some of this throughout the sermon.
Another option would be to strike the fascinating comparison between Adam and Jesus. We looked at this last week. In 3:38, Adam is identified as the “son of God.” He is the “First Adam.” In 3:22, Jesus is identified as the Son of God. He is the “Second Adam.”
So the First Adam is placed in a beautiful Garden called Eden. The Second Adam (4:1) is led by the Sprit into a “wilderness.” The First Adam is given only one negative command. The Second Adam is given every negative command. Same tempter in the devil. Same temptations – test God’s goodness, think for yourself apart from Him, make your own rules of right and wrong and drawn others to worship you. The First Adam failed. Here we will see the Second Adam succeed. The First Adam led the entire world into sin. The Second Adam led those who will receive Him out of sin. With the First Adam, Paradise closed. With the Second Adam, Paradise reopened. We’ll also touch on this throughout the sermon.
Another area I would like to explore and I believe this would be Luke’s main intent, is the clear comparison of Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days and the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years. What do we see again? Israel (the sons of God) failed, but the true chosen Son of God will succeed.
I’m going to try to weave all of these options together in today’s sermon.
The Setting (verses 1–2)
Let’s begin with the setting, our first point.
So we have a little information about the birth of Jesus in chapters 1 and 2. Then in 3:23 we fast-forward to His life at age 30 as Jesus begins His public ministry. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (1:35), baptized by the Holy Spirit (3:22), lived in the power of the Holy Spirit (4:14) and was anointed by the Holy Spirit (4:18), we see here in 4:1 that He was “full of the Holy Spirit” and “led around by the Holy Spirit.”
Luke wants to make something clear to us. Jesus was in full submission to the Father and empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit. And as He sets out taking the first steps in His public ministry, we see Him not led to minister to people (as we would expect), but rather by the Holy Spirit led into the “wilderness.”
It was a placed called “Jeshimon.” It was an area that was a wasteland known as “The Devastation.” It was a harsh place known for human inhabitation, nasty animals and prowling demons.
It was contrary to Adam’s lush Paradise of Eden, but similar to the cruel wilderness where Israel wandered during the Exodus from Egypt. Deuteronomy 8:15, “He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water.”
The parallel is clear. As God led the Israelites into the wilderness to be tested prior to their arrival in glory to the Promised Land, Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tested as well prior to His return in glory to heaven.
Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus, verse 2, was in the wilderness for 40 days. As Israel struggled with hunger in the wilderness, Jesus, verse 2 “ate nothing during those days.”
Why? Why would God lead Jesus into the wilderness? The beginning of verse 2 tells us. “[To] be tempted by the devil.”
This gets us to a very important theological concept. A temptation is a trap that seeks to pull us away from obeying God’s Word. Does God tempt us? The verse certainly seems to be teaching that, but the answer is no. Well, first of all we know the Bible says that “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (Jas. 1:13). Satan is the great tempter. Second, it’s interesting that the same Greek word (peirazo) is used both for temptation and test. Satan tempts (to make us weaker), but God’s goal is to test (to make us stronger) and oftentimes we are tested by God permitting Satan to tempt us. Here we see Jesus being tested by God as He is led by God to be tempted by the devil.
The question for the reader is this: God’s representative in Adam failed. God’s representative in Israel failed. How will God representative in the man Jesus do? Will Jesus doubt the Father and seek to get outside of His will by taking matters into His own hands like Adam and Israel?
Let’s go to the second point and look at the three specific temptations.
The Temptations (verses 3–12)
Satan delights to exploit our weaknesses. If we are living in sin or going without prayer or time in the Word or if our minds are consumed with self or if we pull away from the body Christ we make ourselves vulnerable to his attacks.
Obviously Christ did none of that, yet He was physically weak. Sickness, sleep deprivation, lack of proper food and we will become weaker in the hands of Satan. Jesus in His humanness faced the latter as the end of verse 2 informs us that He “ate nothing” “for forty days” and “became hungry.” Satan immediately jumped on His weakness (like an injured Gazelle separated from the herd) with just the right temptation targeted for his greatest chance of success.
Big picture – Adam is not hungry in a Garden and yields to temptation to eat the forbidden fruit. Jesus is starving in a wilderness and resists the temptation to eat and disobey God. Or, the Israelites are in the wilderness without food and they grumble against God. Jesus is without food and He obeys God.
Verse 3, “And the devil said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’”
In other words, the focus here has been Jesus as the “Son of God.” Satan is basically saying, “If that is true and you have the ability to do as you wish why stay hungry? Give yourself some food. That seems logical and innocent enough! After all, if you were starving and had supernatural powers wouldn’t it be foolish to not make yourself a bite to eat?
Yet what makes this temptation so insidious is that the issue is not simply our Lord’s appetite for physical food. At stake is our Lord’s desire to stay obedient to the Father. It was the Father’s will that Jesus go without food. Satan was seeking to get Jesus, similar as he did to Adam, to listen to his voice and act apart from God.
What will Jesus make His priority? Will His desire for physical food trump His desire for the spiritual food of remaining in the Father’s will? Contrary to Satan’s appeal, will the Son of God prove His Sonship not by making bread and alleviating suffering, but rather prove His Sonship by submitting to the Father’s will if it means suffering and even death?
We see the latter in verse 4. “And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE.’”
It is important to note that in each of our Lord’s responses to the devil that He always used Scripture. That’s our offensive weapon against Satan, right? “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). But also important to note is every verse Jesus quoted is from Deuteronomy, the book that recalls Israel’s unfaithful wanderings in the wilderness.
Luke gives us a portion of the quote in verse 4. The full quote from Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (Dt. 8:3).
Jesus will remain obedient. The Son of God cannot make physical comfort the center of His life. Food will not be His god. The plan from the Father and receiving the spiritual food He gives will be preeminent in His affections. He will not submit to Satan or His physical desires if it means contradicting the will of God and doing without the ultimate spiritual food that the Father provides.
The true Son of God was faithful. Are we faithful to the assaults of Satan in this area? The temptation is the same. Will be submit to being fed with God’s Word or will we contradict God’s Word and feed our sexual lusts through movies and Internet and imagination or feed our greed through the discontent desire to accumulate more or feed our bitterness, jealousy and anger by unloving negativity toward others?
From where are you feasting? Is it the flesh in a lust for carnal pleasure or is it God’s will even if it means suffering and restraint?
If first you do not succeed let’s try a new tactic. The second temptation revolves around personal power, personal glory. Either we will seek to glorify God or we will seek to glorify ourselves.
Adam was given dominion over the Garden, but He wanted to be above God. He wanted the glory for himself. The same could be said of Israel with their fascination to worship false gods. Jesus would do just the opposite.
Verses 5 and 6, the devil “led [Jesus] up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.’”
To what degree Satan was given by God these kingdoms of the world we do not know. We do know in some degree they were his or the temptation would carry no weight if he had nothing to really offer. Jesus never challenged his claim. We know from the Bible that Satan is called the “ruler of the world” (Jn. 12:31) and “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). 1 John 5:19 says, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
“Look around. All of it can be yours, Jesus!” There was only one small requirement. Again it seems simple and innocent enough. It’s over with the blink of an eye. All Jesus had to do was, verse 7, worship Satan. Just a split-second of idolatry – something we do every day. Jesus knew He was on the pathway to ultimate glory, but standing between Him and that was an ominous cross. Bypass the suffering and get the glory now. Why face the people’s cruel rejection. Let people hail you as King now! Immediate gratification!
Verse 8, “Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’’” This time a quote from Deuteronomy 6:13.
What a great example for us. Not only a refusal to worship anyone or anything but God, but also an ability to see through the shabby substitutes that Satan offers. In a sense, Satan let a few words slip that actually revealed his hand. He said in verse 6 that the domain he was offering to Jesus “[had] been handed over to him” by God.
Do you want the tin or do you want the gold? Do you want the leftovers or do you want the best. Do you want the empty conceit of others worshipping you or the true satisfaction of worshipping God? Do you want a temporary kingdom that exists on shaky ground just waiting to be overthrown or an eternal kingdom with “foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).
Jesus proved He was the Son of God because He did not waver in smallest amount in His desire to worship God alone, even if it once again resulted in personal loss.
Finally, the third temptation.
Adam was told he would die if he ate the forbidden fruit. The fear of death kept him away from disobedience. Yet when Satan tempted Adam to eat, he reassured Adam that God was not to be trusted. “You surely will not die!” (Gen. 3:4). What did the Israelites say so often to Moses in the wilderness? “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? (Ex. 14:11). Testing God! Jesus in this last temptation is also threatened with death. Will He ask God to spare Him or will He go forward with the Father’s plan to die at Calvary?
Look at verses 9-11. “And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU,’ and, 'ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’’”
This temptation is most interesting. Jesus kept responding to Satan’s attacks with Scripture. So Satan tries the tactic himself (just as he always does – just as he did in the Garden) by twisting God’s Words just enough to serve his purposes.
Satan quotes Psalm 91 where God promises to protect His people. So if Jesus is really God’s Son, it’s safe to assume that if He throws Himself off a 450 foot pinnacle that the Father will save Him, right? I mean, if God commands His angels to protect King David, how much more will He command them to protect His Son? After all, don’t we all need the challenge to trust God’s Word, obey His voice and “step out in faith?” Jump, Jesus!
In verse 12, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, Jesus responded, “It is said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”
Testing God is a lack of faith. It’s blasphemy for the creator to demand that the Creator prove Himself to be worthy of my trust. True faith is not testing God, but trusting God, knowing that He is not obligated to prove His power and love at every turn.
It is so diabolical! So many people, so often in my own life, convinced they are right when there are so grossly deceived. I see people falling for Satan’s lies hook, line and sinker! Somehow they believe that they will be happier if they disobey God as if Satan really has our best interest in mind. He comes as an evil foe with malicious suggestions and at times an angel of light speaking the Word of God. He works through our desires and human weakness and doubts. Yet remember this, he is always lying, always seeking to destroy and always opposed to God.
The Conclusion (verse 13)
How does it end?
James 4:7, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Satan never goes away for good. Yes, when he loses he does leave, but he is always looking for a new opportunity. In verse 13 we read that Satan backed off. “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.”
Our Lord in His desire to live only by God’s Word, with a passion to worship the Father regardless of the cost, stood firm. More tests and temptations will come as the Savior of the world marches toward the cross where the temptations will reach their highest fury.
May we too realize the fierce spiritual warfare that is going on. May we copy our Savior and stand firm in the power of the Holy Spirit, trusting in and living by the Word of God. And may we praise our Savior who did it perfectly which qualified Him as the true Son of God, the sinless substitute to fully defeat sin and death and the devil and share His victory with those who love Him.